Saturday, 24 November 2012

Your Sister's Sister

Filmed over just twelve days and largely improvised, Your Sister’s Sister stars Mark Duplass as Jack, a man struggling to function a year on from the untimely death of his much loved brother. Jack’s best friend and brother’s ex-girlfriend Iris (Emily Blunt) offers to let Jack stay at her father’s secluded cabin to help clear his head. When he arrives he finds that the cabin is already occupied by Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), a lesbian who has just ended a seven year relationship. Mark and Hannah get to know each other and a bottle of tequila later end up in bed together. When Iris unexpectedly arrives early the next morning a barrage of secrets, lies and half truths comes her way as the other two try to hide what happened the night before.

For a film with a budget which wouldn’t cover Twilight's glitter funds, Your Sister’s Sister looks great. Occasionally you can tell that it was done on the cheap but it never matters. The improvised script and three superb performances help to give the film a realism which propels the drama and comedy forward towards a crescendo, a turning point from which there is no way back. The film’s great selling point though is its story.

The plot, though largely improvised, flows well and features a lot of attractive half turns and little surprises which build up tension and drama. On top of this it is also occasionally quite funny although I’d put it in the drama-comedy camp rather than comedy-drama. Mark Duplass’ character has some great lines and his reaction to what is happening around him is great fun to watch but the drama definitely takes centre stage, especially in the second half. The love triangle plot is something that has seen so many times that you’d think it would be impossible to keep fresh but the complex nature of this triangle feels unexplored and inventive. With Jack secretly in love with Iris who is his brother’s ex, you have a relationship which you feel will never happen but it is made even more unlikely when Mark drunkenly sleeps with Hannah, who happens to be an emotionally vulnerable lesbian. One big and shocking twist later and you’ve got the makings of a great love triangle.

Acting wise the cast are superb. I’ve never seen Mark Duplass act before but I have enjoyed at least some of his behind the camera work. At first he annoyed me but when I got to know the character I thought he did a great job in between the complex sisterly relationship. For a long time I was unsure as to why Emily Blunt was speaking in her normal English accent as her sister was an American, especially as Looper showed us that her American accent is more than competent. This thankfully was explained later on as it too was bugging me. Blunt’s naturalistic performance was also fantastic and it was great to see her having fun and improvising. It’s not really something that I’ve seen from her before. Rosemarie DeWitt completed a triumvirate of great performances with her seemingly emotionally exposed performance that hides something underneath. One of the great things about the acting was that the improv’ didn’t feel forced or unnatural. A lot of the time it felt like three people talking as they would do or arguing as they would. It also doesn’t feel overly rehearsed. In a lot of improvised films it can feel like the actors or writers spent hours trying to craft the perfect line or word but here it flows much easier.  

My only problem with the film was how the story was resolved. After such a natural feeling film the ending felt totally unrealistic for numerous reasons. Without wanting to spoil it I won’t go into them here but there were at least three things which felt really out of place or wrong. The very final scene though was excellent and the film ends in a way that makes you want more. Overall Your Sister’s Sister is an interesting and smart film with good performances and an excellent story which I’m glad to see has already made back ten times its budget. It deserves to.  

GFR 8/10 

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